Year in review: Alzheimer's protein behaves like a prion | Science News

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Year in review: Alzheimer's protein behaves like a prion

Amyloid-beta might spread in rare cases

6:54am, December 15, 2015
stained brain tissue

BUILDUP  Amyloid-beta (brown) accumulated in the front of the brain in a person who received injections of cadaver-derived growth hormone as a child, suggesting that the injections were contaminated with A-beta, researchers reported this year. 

Under rare conditions, an Alzheimer’s-related protein may have jumped between people, scientists reported this year (SN: 10/17/15, p. 12). If true, that observation, the first of its kind, could recast the way scientists view the disease. “This was a highly unusual finding,” says John Collinge of University College London.

Scientists already had hints that the protein in question, amyloid-beta, behaves like an infectious prion, a misshapen protein that coaxes other proteins to misfold and spread from cell to cell. In a study reported in Nature, Collinge and colleagues found A-beta buildup in four of eight postmortem brains from people who had received growth hormone injections

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